By Kristi Alexandra
Great art often leaves you with more questions than answers, and the latest exhibition at the Gordon Smith Gallery of Canadian Art on Vancouver’s North Shore certainly does that.
Running until June 25, We Can Only Hint At This With Words is a three-artist exhibition that bends mediums, rebels against norms and poses questions about bodily freedom.
Guest-curated by Kate Henderson, the exhibit showcases multi-layered works of artists Russna Kaur, M.E. Sparks and Andrea Taylor in a format that defies the typical gallery setup.
Experiential painting, sculpture, installation, and animation meet and marry with nary a title card to be found. Instead, Henderson opts to keep art titles on a separate wall altogether.
“[I want people to think about] how materials are used and how they can push the boundaries of painting and sculpture, how materials can be flexible and pliable, and how artists consider the boundaries and flexibility and possibilities of their mediums,” Henderson told me.
“[Works] creep, fold, and drape throughout the space. In this way, these mixed-media objects become living, breathing bodies in the room—”entities viewers can engage in wordless conversation with”, as a press release from the gallery explains.
“I think the title is really fitting because it’s thinking of the embodied experience of how words can only hint at what lies beneath the surface, and words often fail to express these very embodied, corporeal experiences that we have. So [the artists are] thinking about their own practice as a way of going beyond the written word,” says Henderson.
Accompanying the exhibit is a zine, both a work of art in itself and the subversive answer to an exhibition catalogue. Printed on Xerox paper and folded down the middle, Henderson asserts that its rudimentary nature actually delivers a critical dialogue about the nature of the art in We Can Only Hint At This With Words. Inside, you’ll find a foreword by Henderson, poetry and artwork by Kaur, Sparks, and Taylor, and finally, two essays that critically examine the exhibition as a whole.
“It was important for [Kaur, Sparks and Taylor] to have the zine not just be a standard exhibition catalogue,” says Henderson. “They wanted to include their own writings and their own artworks. It was an interesting balance to figure out how to make that work.”
Though disparate in form and texture, Henderson considered the work of all three artists as having a dialogue or thread that runs through each of their work–all of it either re-imagining a feminist art history, or at least delineating how history and feminism play into their art.
Can we consider what stories the artwork tells? Of course, there’s that which just can’t be put into words, as the exhibit’s title suggests.
“One of the key [takeaways] would be really thinking about how artists use materials to tell a story; how it’s not just words and curatorial writing that can do that,” Henderson says.
“[It’s] thinking about the work and the materials and the textures and surfaces and methods used, how they can all create a story and tell us about the artists’ histories.”
We can only hint at this with words is on view until June 25th
All images by Rachel Topham Photography